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Long Son pagoda


The most revered pagoda in Nha Trang, Long Son was originally built on the summit of Trai Thuy hill to the south of the city, but was detroyed by a typhoon at the beginning of the 20th century.

Not to do any evil. To perform what is good. To keep one’s own heart pure. These are the teachings of lord Buddha.

Indeed, these and other teachings are found scripted on the walls of Nha Trang’s largest pagoda in both Vietnamese and English. At any one time here, there are at least seventy students who are future monks, and eighteen orphans who serve as guides and above all, postcard vendors. Two girls approached us as we were making our way up the stairs to reassure us so as not to worry, that they were not hawkers but rather students, and they wouldn’t be harassing us... except for the postcards. This is the way to make a contribution to this community, as they will not accept cash in any shape or form.


 

There is so much to see here that it was great that a young man decided to serve as our guide; the real marvel is hidden from view upon arrival. A word of caution to anyone that cannot climb more than one flight of stairs: do not attempt to go to the top. There is a sign that discourages people with medical conditions from ascending, and it should be heeded. Luck came for us in the way of a bottle of water, which is absolutely necessary, and several rest stops on the way. A huge, silver replica of a reclining Buddha waits at the top of the stairs (24 meters tall), which for us was a consolation prize for having missed the golden one in Bangkok.

The view from the top is spectacular: you can see the entire city, the water, the housing, the shacks and the beautiful flowers. Also visible are various buildings which are part of this establishment with their peaceful, tiled roofs, their sculpted ferocious looking dragons, and the prominent inverted yellow swastika which our guide hastens to tell us was a peaceful symbol and has nothing to do with Nazism.

By oneself, evil deed is done. By oneself, one is defiled. By oneself, evil deed is not done. By oneself, one becomes purified. Purity and Impurity are done by oneself. No one can purify another.

The words continue to dance in front of my eyes, and they never quite leave me, as we continue our visit through the main hall: this area has been modernized and rebuilt several times, and serves as a memorial to the Buddhists who gave their lives to support the US-backed Diem regime of the 1960’s. We meet a very old man who seems in contemplation and is glad to engage in some words in English with us. His face breaks into a smile when we tell him we are American. He allows us to enter a very special room where chairs and tables are set in such a way for meetings. Around the room are framed photos of the various heads of the "congregation", and the years of their reigns. Free entrance to the public.

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